The Zondo commission will file a high court application in Pretoria asking for its lifespan to be extended until the end of September to allow it to hear further oral evidence and conclude its report, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said on Thursday morning.
“We are going to be applying to the high court to get more time so that we can complete the work of the commission properly,” Zondo said.
The high court granted the commission a three-month extension in February — and cautioned that it would be the last.
Zondo said the commission wished to call five or six witnesses who will not be able to appear by month’s end, when the inquiry’s lifespan was to come to an end. He did not name the witnesses.
“If the high court grants us an extension we will be able to hear the evidence of those five or six witnesses in July, as well as the evidence of the president, hopefully before or not later than 15 July.
“And once we have heard the evidence of those five or six witnesses and the president then that should conclude the hearing of oral evidence of the commission, which started in August 2018.”
Zondo said the commission’s earlier assessment that it would be able to finish its work by the end of June, and oral evidence by the end of March, was made in good faith but proved not possible. He added that he would not rush to satisfy critics.
“Sometimes one becomes aware of some evidence or matters that one may not have been aware of, so the fact of the matter is the assessment that was made was made in good faith but it just didn’t work out,” he said.
“The evidence that still needed to be heard beyond the end of March was very important evidence.”
This included the testimony of the former minister of public enterprises, Malusi Gigaba, which Zondo considered “quite important”.
President Cyril Ramaphosa was tentatively scheduled to complete his testimony on 29 and 30 June, but this will be postponed to allow him to be the last witness to take the stand at the state capture inquiry.
“It is proper that the president must be the last witness to give evidence. We will wait for the high court to deal with our application; we will fix a date for the president and the other witnesses and that will be announced in due course.”
Zondo said although he was confident that the commission would be able to complete its report by the end of August, it was applying for leave to continue until the end of September to allow for any contingencies.
He acknowledged public pressure for the commission to conclude, and said some of its was in good faith but some was not, and he refused to compromise the task at hand.
“The one thing that I will not do is this: I will not end the work of the commission in an irresponsible manner. I am going to repeat that. I will not end the work of the commission in an irresponsible manner just because I want to satisfy those who demand that the commission should finish its work.”
He said he has always been clear that the commission would do its work properly.
“That remains important. We will not seek to act in a haphazard manner.
“I have a responsibility to do my best to ensure that there is fairness to the people who have been implicated, and I intend to do my best to ensure that when we have finished the work of the commission we are able to look back and say we acted properly.”
The justice ministry last month said it would be allocating R75-million from its own budget to the commission and it was in discussions with the treasury to find another R90-billion to allow the commission to wrap up its work, which has, to date, cost more than R800-million.